tv Tavis Smiley WHUT May 30, 2012 7:00pm-7:30pm EDT
tavis: good evening from los angeles. tonight, a conversation with matthew weiner. after a hiatus, "madmen" returns for its 5th season on amc. it has taken the emmy for best drama in each of its first four seasons. a converastion with matthew weiner starts next. >> every community has martin luther king boulevard. it is a place where wal-mart joins with you community. >> and by contributions to your ewerstation from viwers li
>> i don't know if you heard. i fired joey. i did. >> good for you. >> excuse me? >> now everyone will know you solved my problem and you must be important. >> what's wrong with you? i defended you. >> you defended >> fine. the cartoon was disgusting. >> i'd hadnlendled it. if i wanted to go forward, joey would have been off it and out of my hair. >> it's the same result. >> you want to be a big shot. get,tter how pweruowerful we secretaryven i'm a
and you're a humorless -- >> have a nice weekend. >> that was funny. good to see you again. i told you, it was good to see you. i thought i wouldn't see you a while. >> yeah. i'm glad it's over. it all worked out. i a mhoping when -- am hoping people will see it and be happy. it won't be discussed again. tavis: i will play a clip. we haven't seen you in a while. this is from david e. kelly. we started with a montage of his work. after this montage, i asked him -- >> that's a lot of work. tavis: a lot of good work.
i said, what annoys you about this industry? it has changed so d ramatically. he said -- >> i have dealt with broadcast network. first is commercials. it has gotten obscene. too many. when i started on l.a. law, it was 48 minutes with four acts. we are down to 41 minutes, six acts, and a one-ouhour presentation. tavis: what is your take on those who heard about this? your take, not on amc but the notion of networks wanting more and more commercials? >> it is like -- in the midst of
the oil supply. if you used a car that needed more gas, thery are literally -- the audience has so many palces to see -- places to see programming without commercials. on calbble tv, the bargain is you'll watch commercials to have the programming for free. it is free. you are paying for it and have to watch commercials. they can put commercials on there. i love the idea of an exc lusive, sunday night at 10:00, but they just started adding more and more. when you see where television
started, six minutes of an hour was commercials. on network tv, it is 42 minutes of programming, every hour. there is no c story. you drop things out of the show. having this time-driven, people talk about the pace. it is hypnotic. you get a product, in pure business terms, you can't anywhere else. when i was asked to shorten it for two more minutes of commercials, and they couldn't sell commercials -- we had two breaks. they are innovative and open to doing things differently. we had reminders in the ads. they'd stop the tivo, and there
would be a factoid. i am in favor of advertising, and it pays the bills. but to change the product, i'm not doing it. i won't make a cruddy show the more popular it gets. for network tv, i can tell a half-hour story in 42 minutes. it would be boring. tavis: to play devil's advocate, does two minutes make a difference? >> it does. the scripts are 53 pages. i cut out five minutes by the time you see it. for me, i could barely get to 47:30. to take out two minutes, it is four or five pages. for me, a scene like that is
gone. that wasn't two minutes. ido do a dense show, and i do it for a budget. compared to network tv. it doesn't matter. it's the form of the show. adding the two minutes -- chunks of the show, they like to have this thing with the movies. from the late show. here's a big chunk of the movie, then smaller chunks. and you watch three minutes of the time. having a three minute chunk is not watching anything. to take out two more minutes, that is part of the show, three or four minutes long. you drive them to tivo. they are all afraid of the tivo.
people will watch if it is within reason. it's like someone hitting you in the head. >> i am on pbs because -- no commercials. >> that is true. >> i just like talking to you uninterrupted. >> it is incredible. i get it. the marketplace is changing with the dvr. you fight to get people's attention. why add more commercials? there was a trend when network tv realizes this. just charge more per commercial. if it is scarce, you can raise the price. they haven't had the confidence, amc. they have one new program per
quarter. i am not an expert. but in the end, leaving the show as it was, different than network tv. closer to what was on hbo. that's how we got our foot in the door. there's one version of the show. it will be 47 minutes 30 seconds. tavis: we are told you got through this -- you are staying through season seven. that will be it. >> that's the plan. we'll see what its like when we're one show away. can we get a 22 minute version? tavis: at least three seasons, 5, 6, 7. you agreed you won't tell us anything about the season. >> i envenever have.
people want to know. used to, nobody cared. tavis: it cracks me up. you won't tell us jack. >> that is a unique thing for the show. you sit down and have no idea. it's an experience like going to a horror movie. your pulse is racing, you'll be nervous, and taken along -- and i as an entertainer, get to -- you name your favorite singer. sinatra did not put a song list out. you said, "i hope he sings that." there is part of that in every piece of entertainment. telling people what they'll get may enjoy it more. i am in the demo for my show and what entertainment i like.
i don't want to know. that's what i liked about the sopranos. you have a knot in your stomach. you'd watch it again. somewhere, tony would punch somebody. it's the tension of not knowing what will happen. tavis: the first two-hour season opener. >> that was a special plan. we're oofff the air so long, i want people to know i am fighting for their attention. i want them to get -- i did it for the audience. a special event so people get a nice, big dose. >> between the two of us. just two. >> just us. tavis: this is pbs. it isn't amc. how much trepidation do you have that the show has gone so long
that these guys -- are they interested? >> you know me. i have that anxiety all the time, week to week. when i walk into my house. that's why i am in show business. i cannot get enough. i will never feel secure. i will work my side as hard as i can. i ddi thid the show and try noto worry. but with a two-hour premier -- this is something and i'm aware they will give you somethng extra. the timing went around. hopefully the most negative feelings with the network and show disipated. why be upset? i am as nervous as every single
season. is this the season wehre where t bad reviews, and people will be like, "i'll catch it later." tavis: everybody is back. cast changes -- >> the cast is the story. everybody is back. tavis: you are not falling for the banana in the tailpipe. >> i think i will make the promise -- people will feel they got a lot. it hits the ground running. a totally new story. they are the same people. the period has moved on. you will get into the story immediately. tavis: we have draper walking past mannequins, and saying -- >> what did you get from that?
tavis: i don't want to misread it. >> you can't misread it. it's a nonverbal message. if it is in words it is a trick. it's a rorscach test. i -- tavis: this ad here -- it is -- >> striking? tavis: it says something about the season? >> absolutely. and it says something about don. it has certain qualities of the show. it is luscious, dirty but not dirty. i am on basic cable. i can't swear or show nakedness or violence. i work in an old-fashioned arena anyway. i love the idea with the suggestion. for me, it is about what you're
seeing. the scene in there is a man and woman in a domestic situation. tavis: what do you make of the show being successful. some shows fail quickly. but they -- people try to copy this style. >> that was fascinating. tavis: imitation is a great form of flattery. >> i was curious about what it would be. i didn't know that going through the network, they couldn't tell the stories, which is the secret to success. they can do makeup and hair, but the stories are hard to
immitate. a lot of the people who worked on my shows were involved, but i look at it as flattering. it is so hard to get a show on the air. when i run into these people, i say, "good luck." the only part that is negative at the end, that is the most interesting part. is that there were so many. this show was rejected by every single person. it was written with a spec. i had no idea how tv worked and didn't watch tv, and they'd never make the show. when it went on the air, good luck. amc doesn't know what they're doing. and then they're trying to make something like it.
that was funny. tavis: the good stuff -- what happens twhen you run into these people who say it will never fly. how do you get along? >> if i put up a wall against those who rejected me, i'd be alone. i thrive on it. i won't say i don't have an ego. you can't hold a grudge. you can run into people -- treat people well. be nice to your waiter. you don't know who somebody is. i try not to hold a grudge. some people were obnoxious about it. i kind of smile. whatever. i don't want to pick what show goes on the air. when i was selling the show, i said, this would work.
i never expected this to happen. i am not vindictive. you can't be. there is nobody who has a job who didn't see this script and reject it. what am i going to do, not work again? i am forgiving. tavis: maybe because i don't understand the business. successful, "the cosby show" was turned down. what am i to make -- nobody figures out it could work, and wildly? >> everything successful has this story. here's an idea. they went out and put their money in it, and it happened. takeopposed to why don't we
the risk. as soon as money is spent -- they look for the next thing. tavis: iot makes me wonder, how much good stuff is out there, because some idiot doesn't understand they should greenlight it? a black doctor -- cosby -- it will never work. >> there is nothing. osby show, ihe cobsy show thought it was amazing. the pilot is an unusual structure. we are in a golden cage. people will try amazing stuff now. look at the chance. you think that would limit your chance. what happened? in a year, there are 20 shows just like cosby. they don't know how to take that
first step. if you step out and fail, it is -- you ahve thave to hedge yours with those elements. it takes a certain kind of person to take the risk. brandon -- he was the guy who failed plenty and lived on the risk. most people we admire fail all the time. a billionare who hasn't been broke. we take our cues from the risk- takers. it's a lot about, you 'r're tryg to get your job done and trying not to make waves. trying to have a nice house. knowing what will creatively hit -- why don't you just use yourself? anybody trying to guess what the
public wants, even barnum didn't know. his stuff is sailing. that is always what i say. i say, "do you like it? " i don't want to hear what mr. and mrs. america like. they aren't telling the truth. do you like this sexy poster? >>no. aat if i brought it in frame? focus groups are touchy. it takes a lot of bravery to bring in cash. i know this star worked. i have no stars in there. nobody was known to the public. that spirt ait at amc, i feel loyalty to them.
they were like, we had a meeting about the show. we said, "do you like it?" "i like it. i watch tv and like to watch amc." >> i am glad we came full circle. when this kicked up -- we close on this. i said, the show is over if matt isn't there. you write all the stuff. what happens if you get pnuemonia? >> it is bad. i am -- a lot of tv shows are like that. that's just the risk you take. what happens when kobe's sick? tavis: it isn't happening now. kobe isn't sick. >> but you're a very important person.
tavis: what happens if the ideas stop? >> i can't do it myself completely. talented people stimulate ideas. cohan, who does "weeds," she is very creative. like a sister to me. in my worst panic. she says, there's always more story. when you start doing it, and you feel it isn't good. when that happens, i have to take a break. that is something i deal with all the time. thansks for making me worry. tavis: that's why he's a writer. because there is more story, there are more episodes of "mad men." the first four seasons win
everything. season six and seven, and here's to your annual visit. i am looking forward to it. i don't know about it but look forward to it. that's our show. keep the faith. >> you can back me or not. >> you did what is best for you. you are impatient and childish, with a tantrum on a full page of the "new york times." >> nobody is happy about this. good to be the reason this place went down anymore. >> visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. >> join me for a conversation with frank langella on his memoir. "droped names." >ped names." >> every community has mlk